Category Archives: New Media

PBS, Citizen Journalism, and Content as King

Screen shot 2011-12-13 at 9.28.10 AMThis is an excellent panel discussion held at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on November 29, 2011 featuring Paula Kerger head of PBS and John Boland head of the SF local station, KQED talking about the future of the Public Broadcasting.

Core is the story itself, content remaining king so part of their content strategy is finding the market failures, the important things to society that the market is not addressing: fifty percent of content on the Networks is now reality programming!  Operating at a local level KQED has been both content creator and distributor, the place you go for PBS/NPR programming and other sources, now that content is in lots of place on lots of platforms so evolving from being a distributor to being more of a content creator, and curator of content from lots of sources: a reliable curator, editor, recommender to tell you were your time is well spent. The newer role is more as a community convener and partner.

Give a listen.

User Generated Content Fit to Publish – Part II

Screen shot 2011-10-04 at 4.31.17 PMIn Part I of this blog post,  I wrote about the shift that’s going on with user generated content, most particularly in the context of news and the recent publishing of said content (a photo) by the New York Times.

Today, it’s about a video made of a Fox News reporter interviewing a participant in Occupy Wall Street tmegaphonehat was published in the Huff Post the  “Internet Newspaper: News Blogs Video Community” as well as on YouTube.   The point I am making is traditional media are opening up their video channels to user generated content.  Here is the not-so-traditional Huff Post open invitation.

Screen shot 2011-10-04 at 2.35.56 PM

Citizens with video camera’s take note.

And here is the formal invitation:

Screen shot 2011-10-04 at 2.35.40 PMAs I said the landscape of citizen-powered video reporting is evolving and in the last few weeks it is blooming.  It’s twisting the meaning of video (TV) news in an environment already mostly entertainment and talking heads, reducing the “just breaking” to a scrolling headline.

The Web is more about your time, what’s new to you, making it a far more interesting channel than TV for documentaries, stories, and interviews that contribute to the new news flow.   While social media has focused on the immediate, the Web of video is also part now, but unlike posts using blogs, twitter and Facebook, it has a much longer shelf life, a longer tail.

The thing about user generated content that was rife especially before journalists turned to blogging was the quality issue, not just in style and good grammar, but being detached, checking facts, and being accurate. This brings me to the article from the Center for Media Research headlined “News Organizations Take It On the Chin” summarizing the Pew Research Center’s report. The bleak Screen shot 2011-10-04 at 5.11.02 PMfindings include “negative opinions about the performance of news organizations now equal or surpass all-time highs on nine of 12 core measures the Pew Research Center has been tracking since 1985.  More to the point, “Fully 66% say news stories often are inaccurate, 77% think that news organizations tend to favor one side, and 80% say news organizations are often influenced by powerful people and organizations.”  And, back to the Internet thing, “Among those younger than 30, the internet far surpasses television as the main source for national and international news.” Oh Boy.

Oh boy.

A perfect time for schools of journalism to sponsor public discussions, seminars and debates in partnership with the citizen-powered media folks such as Amy Goodman and Michael Moore.  Amy’s interview of Michael on Democracy Now is great as is her speech at the news conference she gave yesterday at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, where hundreds are camped out with the Occupy Wall Street protest.  She announced the landmark settlement stemming from her arrest (over forty  journalists were arrested) in St. Paul during the Republican National Convention.

User Generated Content Fit to Publish – Part I

There’s the New York Times as content maker, the role we are all familiar with, and channel, the role we assume, but do not label, especially with the tv-like word, channel.

In the last week the New York Times demonstrates a shift that’s going on with user generated content from all bad to, well, interesting. Let’s take a look.

Front page New York Times – photography with cell phone. Video example is of pepper spraying police officer which was all over the news this last week.

New York Times Cellphone PhotoAnd then there was the “homemade” video that made it on to their video channel (page) for a series about love and relationships which while not political, is social and cultural and a good start to incorporating citizen-powered online video into a mainstream channel.

Screen shot 2011-10-02 at 6.25.07 PM

And the video by the Times  (not clear if producer is on staff or not) that’s news about a performance art piece featuring naked performers has the look and feel of user generated content and addresses, er, transparency.

Screen shot 2011-10-02 at 6.31.19 PM

Hope the schools of journalism and communication are paying attention to this because writing it is not, fact checking it need not be, and when it comes to citizen-powered, video content it’s carpe diem or, well, get left behind.

We see the opportunity to pair a sustainability channel with sustainability-related social networks and subscriber bases for kick starting citizen-powered online video as part of the sustainability movement.   Cause marketing will never be the same. And journalism?

Corporate Sponsorship of Sustainability: The FYI

From an email from the Txchnologist:

“FYI – the Txchnologist is an online magazine that looks at new innovations in science and technology.  The next several weeks of coverage will be dedicated to exploring the issues around natural gas. The magazine is presented by GE but the stories are not necessarily reflective of the company’s views or positions.”

FrackingNatural gas is a high risk alternative to oil owing to the process to retrieve the gas called fracking. It will be interesting to see how balanced the stories are and to learn, possibly, more about GE’s investment in natural gas development, if they have one.  Most citizens, myself included, are not very well informed on this subject.  On we have a special collection, High Risk Energy Alternatives, and we continue to believe that hearing directly from the leaders and citizens from both sides of the story is important for citizens in their professional and work roles to make informed decisions. We also see that it has been the practice to externalize risk and costs associated with our ecosystem services and the results are unacceptable as is continuing to not discuss the practice until there is a catastrophe such as the Gulf Oil spill and the meltdown of three reactors in Japan. To return to business as usual is also not acceptable and another good reason to listen to the voices of sustainability.

What we don’t know is does a sponsorship by a major corporation compromise the integrity of our collection?  Major corporations have the big bucks and the marketing intelligence to know the value of thought leadership.  It’s tempting. We continue to look for where EarthSayers needs to find the funding support to be part of The Worldwide Commons and remain, like a library, open to all, but unlike the bookish roots of our library systems (special libraries in particular) being rooted in online video, the voices of sustainability.

Sustainability and Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is an important issue not only to the sustainability movement, and in particular, our Internet Network dedicated to the sustainability movement, but to all individuals and organizations seeking to have a voice and with a cause.

In today’s interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, Net Neutrality, Josh Silver, co-founder of the media reform group Free Press, notes “And with the internet brings this possibility that any website could act as a television network, a radio network. It is the ultimate game changer in the future of how Americans access information and learn about the world.”

It’s difficult to explain how EarthSayers is a Website that’s a Network.  Working on getting this clearer for the power of it can be a game changer, but only when the game changers, many of whom are not Web savvy or just plain Internet adverse, see the advantages of investing in Networks like EarthSayers.  We are one of a few but, as Josh says, “any Website could,” and we have been open to sharing our know how.

We will begin in 2011 to actively seek sponsors for, voices of sustainability, and from those individuals and companies who want to change the game whether it be transforming our economic system to changing culture and consciousness. There are now over 700 sustainability voices on EarthSayers and we add more each day from over forty channels, traditional and online.

P.S. Josh notes that policy hasn’t kept up with technology so part of our job as sustainability advocates is to educate the policy makers and get them on board with the program.

Twittering Sustainability: @earthsayer

We use Twitter primarily as a way to connect with other sustainability-minded environmental, social, cultural, and economic individuals and organizations (241 at this writing) and bring to their attention the voices of sustainability in our collection. We add videos daily to EarthSayers and use Twitter to call out at least four or five a week. Here are two examples:

Twitter Example 1Twitter Example 2We are “pushing” out EarthSayers content to an audience who has expressed an interest in our cause.  We experiment with the day and time of day we post and offer a wide range of experts, leaders, and citizens from all walks of life. It does seem to generate traffic to our site, meaning people do click through, but not in droves. What we are going to do next is emphasize the subject matter of the video, rather than the person presenting the information and see if it we increase click through numbers.

A social science research paper, “Twitter in Congress: Outreach vs Transparency” by Feng Chi and Nathan Yank, both of the University of Toronto raises an interesting distinction which was referenced by the authors from Felten (2009):  “outreach means government telling us what it wants us to hear; transparency means giving us the information that we, the citizens, want to get.” Ultimately, outreach can be used in conjunction with Twitter to push some agendas, while transparency can be used to portray honesty and openness regarding day-to-day operations; both of which involve connecting with the public, and more specifically, constituents via the Internet.”

I suspect this distinction also applies to other profit and non-profit organizations as well, but there is not with reason not to use Twitter for both outreach and transparency.

The authors then make an important point:

“Because both outreach and transparency are important for democracy, we attempt to tease out these two motives using a simple cost-benefit trade-off that underlies the adoption decisions of those in the 111th House of Representatives in order to ascertain each motivei?s value.” We feel very strongly about EarthSayers, as the only media outlet focused on the sustainability movement and highlighting the voices of sustainability,  that the the new media and related social media outlets be used in the service of democracy.  And in that regard, the findings of the study suggested “that Democrats and Republicans benefit from Twitter in different ways.

A bolder claim from our study says that Democrats care about transparency, while Republicans care about outreach.

Sustainability: Searching and Not Finding

EarthSayers.tvOver the last twelve months the phrases “environmental  sustainability” and the “definition of sustainability” are in  number 1 and 2 positions on the top Google searches for sustainability. What do searchers find and who influences their thinking? Most of our citizens are getting information on these terms from Wikipedia or the EPA or, in some cases, the more mainstream press such as MSNBC.   Our site,, is focused on being in the top results along with Wikipedia bringing the unfiltered voices of sustainability, a videopedia, if you will, calling out the people defining the emerging landscape of  sustainability.  We are not in the top rankings YET, but because we pay such close attention to search, we see a trend of major corporations moving into the top rankings as they come to understand how they can influence public perceptions of their “greenness” through paid and organic search strategies. Eventually the big Corporations will dominate the highest rankings.

But getting the attention of  progressives and their organizations on the importance of search and high rankings is difficult, largely because they lack any experience on the commercial side of the Web, resulting in much of the information and news produced around sustainability being buried in the back water of Google and Blinkx search results.  A couple of years ago when we first started EarthSayers a search on Blinkx, a video search engine, netted 21,000 sustainability videos. Today it’s over 250,000!

So as the information chests GROW of the well meaning organizations and leaders, ranging from environmentalists to triple bottom line advocates, and the bloggers and twitterers, including our own @earthsayer, seed the Web organically, we aren’t really impacting the rankings on sustainability or on any of the related categories such as global warming and climate change.  This is a failure contributing to the decline in awareness tracked in polls and surveys.

A recent Gallup poll cited in the Talk of the Town, The New Yorker, April 12, 2010, reports “forty-eight per cent of the respondents believe the threat of global warming to be generally exaggerated. This figure was up from thirty-five percent a year ago. According to the same poll, only fifty-two per cent of Americans believe that “most scientist believe that global warming is occurring – down from sixty-five per cent in 2008. The dark green line below represent the per cent of people (32%) who believe global warming is going to affect their lives, down from a high of 40 per cent.

Gallup PollElizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker article also makes note of “a quarter of the TV weather-casters AGREE with the statement ‘global warming is a scam,’ and nearly two-thirds believe that, if warming is occurring, it is caused mostly by natural change.”  This is painful to consider.

The Web as new media can play a critical role in educating our citizens about sustainability and the related issues, especially if we use it to bring to the fore with high page rankings the unfiltered voices of business and civic leaders, experts, consultants, and citizens from all walks of life. There is way too much  processed information, particularly in the form of unsubstantiated marketing claims and green lists, and too little authentic voices of sustainability that can be found by searching the Web. Research shows that children rarely go beyond the first page of rankings and it is not a stretch to assume adults are not much different. We are working to fix the problem as soon as possible by educating leaders, aggregating sustainability videos, and using a sustainability taxonomy we created for our site to seed the Web methodically, but we can’t do it alone.  We need help drawing attention to the problem that is, at the same time, a great opportunity to increase sustainability awareness and educate our citizens.


According to PEJ New Media Index “Global warming emerged as the second-largest story in the blogosphere (at 16%). It, too, has proven a favorite over the past year. Last week marked the 10th time that the subject has been among the top five stories on blogs since PEJ New Media Index began monitoring the blogosphere in January 2009.